Believes he was sabotaged.
Just. More. Excuses.
For all the talk of parity in the NFL, the NFC is not complying in 2021. Six of the seven seeds in January’s postseason tournament are all but spoken for, with Arizona, Los Angeles, Green Bay, Dallas, Tampa and New Orleans creating a sizable gap between themselves and the rest of the field. There will now be a scrum, a scramble, a scrape for the seventh seed, and the honor of getting absolutely thrashed on the road come Wildcard Weekend. (Personal note: I’ll be celebrating my 40th birthday in Atlantic City that weekend and gambling heavily against this seventh seed.)
The Bears are not going to be that team. First, they are not very good on either side of the ball.
Defensively, they survived the first stretch of the season with exemplary pass rush from Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. When that rush evaporated, due to a combination of injury, Covid and Trent Williams, the secondary has been revealed as what it is: Jaylon Johnson, DHC and a collection of practice squad guys.
Offensively, they just don’t have enough talent. Their wide receivers are mediocre. Their offensive line can’t pass protect. Their running backs can’t stay on the field. Sunday was the most inspiring loss in Bears history, with Justin Fields looking every bit the part of star quarterback, but it was also plainly obvious how much help he needs.
Second, this team’s schedule doesn’t get easier. They will be significant underdogs at Pittsburgh, home to Baltimore, home to Arizona and at Green Bay. Their best case record scenario when they arrive at games against Minnesota and Seattle, teams also fighting for the seventh seed, is 5-8, assuming they win in Detroit on Thanksgiving. That record would require this team to RUN THE TABLE to get into the tournament.
So, let it go. It’s over. There will be no playoff football for the 2021 Chicago Bears. And you know what? That doesn’t matter! They’ve got the horse that matters; they’ve got the quarterback. Now they need to try and unload any player not part of the long-term Justin Fields Project. The Bears should have a sign on their lawn in Lake Forest that reads “(Just About) Everything Must Go”.
I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the NFL salary cap. I do understand that trading big contracts is exceedingly difficult, and thus happens rarely in-season. But the Bears need to unload whatever they can, and they should be willing to take financial hits in 2022 to do so. This team will be better next season because the quarterback will improve and the coach should be different, but they still won’t be contenders yet. They need more draft picks to replenish this secondary and wide receiving corps. And they need them next spring.
Who can they deal?
Camp is still weeks away and with it comes the anticipation of analyzing every single throw from Justin Fields and Andy Dalton for days and days and days.
Updated NFC North odds:
Green Bay remains the favorite at -121, which could only be the number if DraftKings believed Rodgers will end up playing for the Packers. Minnesota and Chicago – +225 and +350 respectively – are sitting at pretty good numbers. Detroit is +2000 and those odds are still too low.
By drafting Justin Fields the Bears not only changed the direction of the franchise — possibly saving the jobs of everyone from the team president to the coaching staff — the selection also reshaped the direction the team should go with star wide receiver Allen Robinson.
Paying Robinson big money without knowing the long-term answer at quarterback would’ve been questionable. Fields is that answer, and the Bears have until next week to lock Robinson down and make sure Fields knows who his primary target is going to be.
There is little question that Robinson wants to be among the top-five paid players at his position. The price tag will rise if Davante Adams re-signs with the Green Bay Packers before the start of the season. The Bears have until July 15 to negotiate a contract with Robinson or settle on the fact that they’ll almost certainly lose him in 2022.
Robinson and the Bears have something in common in that we don’t know what either are with an actual quarterback.
(1) The only time I’ve gotten a scoop wrong on Twitter was during a conversation I had with Robinson last spring, suggesting he would be extended shortly. That suggestion came from directly inside the organization and there was a firm belief the deal was done. It was not. Robinson wanted more. (Way more.) And now it seems ARob has taken his situation to the media in hopes of avoiding the franchise tag and securing about a $100 million contract.
That same individual inside the organization told me this week the team has NOT ruled out a long-term deal with Robinson. An extension is still their best case scenario, despite what Robinson says publicly.
(2) Tagging Robinson is a no brainer. And if any team is willing to part with a first-round pick for him, the Bears should not even hesitate to make that move. As Andrew wrote Tuesday, if trading Robinson makes it possible for the Bears to acquire a potential franchise QB, nothing else matters. Make the deal. If the Bears don’t find themselves acquiring an established starter (Watson, Carr) before the draft, they must come out of that first round with a quarterback to inspire the fan base and give hope for the future. With two first rounders, that should be fairly easy to accomplish.
(3) This piece at CBS from Cody Benjamin has a passage I simply don’t understand:
If Chicago hasn’t met his demands by now, it’s hard to believe the team will retain him any longer, unless it’s on the franchise tag Robinson doesn’t want.
Who cares what Robinson wants? This is a business. The Bears are not going to determine whether or not to tag Robinson based upon the player’s preferences! It’s been amazing to see national writers only see the team’s options as tagging (and keeping) him or letting him go onto the open market.
It certainly doesn’t seem as if the Chicago Bears are going to be re-signing Allen Robinson to a long-term extension, which means they have to find a way to make his exit a positive for the future of the franchise. The best way to do that is by moving him in a deal that would help the team draft the next franchise quarterback.
As I wrote last week, the team’s options at quarterback are relatively limited and trading up would cost them more picks than most GMs would be comfortable with unloading. Their most valuable asset could be Robinson through a tag and trade scenario.
In recent years, worse receivers have been traded for first round picks, so that’s where the bidding could start for Robinson. Last year, Stefon Diggs was traded for the 22nd pick and some change after a season in which he caught just 63 passes. Considering he’ll be on the franchise tag with a hefty raise coming, it’s not unreasonable to consider Robinson as having the same value as Diggs.
Trading Robinson makes the Bears future prospects at least a little more interesting.
After yesterday’s piece highlighting the Bears’ need to prioritize keeping Allen Robinson around this offseason, today will build on that with a closer look at Robinson’s value to the Bears. I’ll start with examining his individual performance, and then look to the importance of that performance in context to building a roster.
To start with, Robinson is the team’s highest volume pass weapon by a wide margin. More than 1 in 4 passes the Bears threw last year went Robinson’s way, and he finished 3rd in the NFL in targets with 151 (9.4/game). Nobody else had more than Darnell Mooney’s 98 (6.1/game). Replacing that kind of volume would be difficult.
However, you could reasonably argue that high volume is not indicative of quality. In fact, if Robinson drew a lot of targets but had limited production with them, it could be argued that distributing those targets elsewhere is a good idea. And at first glance, Robinson was not a terribly efficient target.
It is important to remember, however, that a pass catcher is dependent on their quarterback, and Robinson was working with bad quarterbacks last year. The players who caught more passes than him were catching balls from Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, and Patrick Mahomes. Those who finished with more yards caught passes from those QBs plus Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Ryan.
With that in mind, let’s compare Robinson’s efficiency to the rest of the team’s pass catchers. The table below shows the basic statistics for every player with at least 10 targets in 2020.
Here’s the truth about the Chicago Bears offense: they’ve got players.
The interior of their offensive line is now young, talented and deep. Sam Mustipher is a starting center. Cody Whitehair, Alex Bars and James Daniels all proved they can play at a high level. And all four will only improve under the tutelage of Juan Castillo.
David Montgomery has established himself as one of the better running backs in the league, and the backfield will be more dynamic in 2021 with the return of Tarik Cohen.
Rookies Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet combined for 89 catches, 874 yards and 6 touchdowns. They did so with sub-mediocrity from the quarterback position, and with Kmet having to wait until December for a game with more than two catches.
The Bears need to add talent at tackle, and should always be adding weapons on the outside. But one thing they can not worry about in 2021 is replacing Allen Robinson as their top receiver option.
Robinson’s game is not without flaws. He seemingly never wins 50/50 jump balls, and many of those manage to end up in the hands of defensive backs. He lacks the kind of speed to threaten defenses over the top. But he’s one of the more steady, reliable receivers in the league. His 102 catch, 1,250 yard, 6 touchdown performance in 2020 – especially considering the quarterback play – is one of the more impressive seasons in team history.
The Bears should not even consider a roster next season without him. And that consideration does not require paying him north of $80 million, despite the #ExtendARob movement on social media. The Bears have made many substantial, lucrative offers to Robinson and his side has rejected all of them. He wants $100 million. No one is going to pay him that.
The franchise tag exists for this exact situation. If Robinson doesn’t like that outcome, too damn bad. Nothing bothers me more than players complaining about the tag, an admittedly-absurd designation their union agreed to in collective bargaining. If players don’t like the tag – and none of them seem to – they should hire someone with gravitas to run the NFLPA and eliminate the damn thing. In the meantime, no one should criticize a team for doing what is economically prudent.
FOCO is giving away the product above (full description available HERE) to the winner of tonight’s contest. It’s going to be a super cold winter across the country and having a hoodie that doubles as a mask will help.
So what is tonight’s contest? Guess the total yards COMBINED for Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney receiving. (Receiving only.) For context, their totals over the last three games are 183, 229 and 130. So a wide range is possible.
As always the rules:
Good luck! On to the remainder of the game preview!
As was broken in the comments section last week, Matt Nagy won’t be calling the plays tonight. It was the only move for him to make and it’s overdue.
Will this move fix the offense? Of course not. But when your offense is performing at a level this low, you have to empty the trunk and bring out the gimp. No move is too dramatic. If changing the play-caller means even two or three extra first downs a game, you do it.
Nagy didn’t want to . I get it. “I love it” he said repeatedly about calling plays. We take this game so seriously sometimes that we forget it’s a game and it’s supposed to be fun for EVERYBODY involved. Nagy just relinquished the part of the game he loves most. That ain’t easy.
And as much as I fell this move was belated, it should still be applauded. A mature head coach is benching his stubborn offensive coordinator.
Calling plays no more,
Nagy paces the sideline.
His headset, on mute.
Offense. Allen Robinson. There’s no doubting that Robinson is this club’s number one receiver but he is looking for Michael Thomas money. Is it too much to ask for him to win 50/50 balls? Is it too much to ask for him dominate an inferior opponent? The Bears don’t need 4-for-70 from ARob tonight. They need 11-for-140. And they need that production to occur while the game is still being contested, not in garbage time. You can blame the quarterback play all you want but great receivers elevate mediocre quarterbacks. Is Robinson a great receiver?
None of it was pretty. But 23 points and roughly 330 yards was about the best anybody could have or should have expected from the Chicago Bears offense on Sunday. That is a sad statement. But it is our current reality.
Already with a bad offensive line, the Bears got worse up front early in the game when Bobby Massie went down. His replacement, Jason Spriggs, is a backup for a reason, and a backup on this offensive is most likely a third stringer elsewhere. The Bears ended the game with an offensive line that included two UDFAs (one was a defensive lineman three years ago), a seventh-round pick turned average veteran, a second-round bust and a first-round bust. Some teams can win with a bad offensive line. A team with Nick Foles at quarterback can’t. To their credit, the Bears battled and scored 23 points against a Saints defense just hitting its stride.
The offense wasn’t good enough by NFL standards, but it could have been good enough to win Sunday. If the Bears defense plays to their potential, the same type of performance could also be good enough to win enough games down the stretch.
Could this have been a performance upon which to build?